FREQUENTLY ASK QUESTIONS

1 - Concept Design & Feasibility Study

2 - Developed Design & Planning Application

3 - Technical Design & Building Regulations

4 - Project Management & Contract Administration

1 - Concept Design & Feasibility Study

 

1.1) What are the advantages of having an architect on board?

  • We are highly trained and are especially good at seeing the ´big picture' in making the best of the space you have, the feel is good, and that the design works.

  • We are good at the detail that most people rarely think about.

  • We will help you to find a suitable builder and also, project manage the whole works and keep it within budget and programme. 

  • We will help you to navigate the construction process from design to completion in a smooth way. Our input is worthy!!

1.2) Creating a brief and why it is important

The brief is a vital tool to help express ideas and clarify aims. It is something that explains your feelings and that you can refer back to as the project progresses to make sure you keep on track. It is used to clearly convey some background information on you and your family including how you like to live and entertain and what is important to you.

1.3) How is the design process with us?

Our approach to the design activity is based on a collaborative relationship with our clients.

We are guided by our leitmotiv LISTEN + SOLVE + CRAFT. So, in the first step, we will meet you, listen to you carefully and interpret what you need intuitively, creating solutions that you would never have thought of. During the design process, we will hold regular meetings in which we will be outlining the proposal. The design process won't end until we solve appropriately the issues raised and you are happy with the result. Then, once the idea is captured on paper, we will finally help you to make it real and build it!

1.4) How much do we charge?

Architects fees largely depend on the nature and size of the project and the circumstances of the appointment. One of the main factors to influence our price is our experience and expertise, and also the size, type complexity, quality, and location of the project.

 

We operate a fixed fee structure. We choose this method because it gives our clients certainty about the total cost of our services at the beginning of the agreement. 

Note that we offer a wide range of architectural services, from design to completion. Therefore, our fees will be split accordingly and charged as we progress in the process.

1.5) What if you are not sure what you want?

Book a consultation and we can talk about how you can use the current space you have or how you intend to use it. From that conversation, we can propose some ideas about how to best utilise the space, the building or the site that you have and take it from there.

 
 

2 - Developed Design & Planning Application

 

2.1) Do I need a planning application?

If you want to build something new or make a major change to an existing building you will probably need planning permission. If your project needs planning permission and you do the work without getting it, you can be served an enforcement notice ordering you to undo all the changes you have made. 

Note that you can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called 'permitted development rights. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply for flats, maisonettes, or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.

Please also note that if you choose to go through this route, a permitted development application accompanied by scale drawings should be submitted to the Council. This will be used to demonstrate that the permitted development limits have not been exceeded.  

2.2) What happens if my planning application gets rejected?

If your planning application gets rejected then you will have a year to resubmit another application free of charge. In terms of design fees, we charge an hourly rate if the changes are minor iterations. Alternatively, if you do not agree with the decision at all, you have the option to appeal the planning decision. To appeal it is free of charge. Generally, we suggest working with the planners as much as possible to get to a point where you can amend the design to get approval. 

2.3) My neighbour has done a similar extension as the one I'm planning, will it be easier for me?

If your neighbour has done a similar extension that is a good start because there is a precedent that it can be done in a similar way. However, each proposal is assessed on its single merit, therefore you will still need to go through the same process and your proposal will be assessed in its own context.

2.4) Is a planning application in a conservation area different from a non-conservation area?

Yes, we will charge a higher fee for submitting a planning application in conservation area as we need to submit more information in terms of statements and drawings. Please note that permitted development rights are not allowed if your property is situated in a conservation area.

2.5) How long does it take the planning process?

Once a planning application is submitted, normally this will take up to 4 weeks for validation and up to 8 weeks to get a decision from the Local Authority. Note that if another route (ie. permitted development limits) is explored, this process would be quicker. 

 

3 - Technical Design & Building Regulations

 

3.1) What happens once my planning application is granted?

Once the design has been approved by the Council (under a full planning application or permitted development rights) the development must begin within three years from the approval date. Then, the next step would be to appoint someone to carry out the desired building works. Constructing a building, even a small extension, it's a complex task that requires different layers of information. So, after the planning drawings, you will need a set of detailed technical drawings showing how the building should be built. They will include roof, walls, floor construction, detailed plans showing electrical layouts, kitchen & bathroom layouts, materials, etc.  

These drawings will be issued to building control for 'plans approval' and will be used by your builder for construction purposes. There are broadly two scenarios:

 

a) Some of our clients have a trust builder that they want to use. In this case, we will prepare the detailed design (drawings & specifications) and provide this to your builder. Then, he will be able to prepare a cost estimate and programme for the works. The more information we provide them, the better, as their quote will be more accurate and you can plan your finances.    

b) If you don't have a trust builder, don't worry! Over the years we have built strong links with building contractors and we will help you to find the right team for your project. We will organise the tendering process and guide you through the different options.

3.2) Do I need Building Regulations approval?

The Building Regulations cover the construction and extension of buildings.

The majority of domestic like for like replacement kitchens or bathrooms won't need any form of building regulations approval, but if you're modifying the existing layout then approval may be needed. You might also need building regulations approval for many small alteration projects (if you move the boiler / if you install a new gas appliance / if you relocate the sink / if you relocate the bathroom appliances / if you replace a window or external door / if you install a new window or external door / if you install an electric circuit / if you install or alter fixed electrical equipment in the kitchen / if you install an extract fan).

Please note that you could choose between the local authority building control department or an approved inspector. If you choose to go with an approved inspector, you will jointly have to notify your local authority that you intend to build your project, which is done through submitting an 'initial notice'.

The difference between your local authority and an approved inspector can vary. However, with budget cuts to many councils, a lot of local authorities are unable to provide the same level of personal care that an approved inspector provides.

3.3) Do I need input from others professionals?

Constructing a building, even a small extension, it's a complex task that requires different layers of information. We will confirm if your project requires additional input from other professionals to complete the planning and technical submissions (ie. tree surveyor, planning consultant, environmental consultant, quantity surveyor, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, etc). Over the years we have established ties with other professionals in the industry who share our vision and will get them on board if required. 

3.4) How much will my project cost?

Unfortunately, this is a tricky question to answer and a lot of aspects need to be considered (ie. location, type of building, size of the development, quality of build, etc). 

There are tables to help us with the ballpark figures. However, in order to give you a more accurate number, a developed design is required. In essence, we would need to prepare the technical drawings and specifications for the building works and items required. This information will act as a 'shopping list' and it could be priced more accurately by a building contractor or quantity surveyor.

If a builder gives you a project cost without a proper detailed design being agreed and assessed, don't take this figure seriously. Builders are normally great at building things, not as good at predicting contingencies.       

3.5) How to choose the right builder for my project

Not always the cheapest is the best approach and other aspects should be considered! One of them will be communication, this is essential for a successful job. Our suggestion will be to meet the team and see if you get on with them. Also, meet previous clients and jobs. Other useful tips will be: 

 

  • Longevity - usually means they are doing something right

  • Insurances - the builder should have public and employers liability insurance as a minimum

  • Legal contracts - a builder that does not employ the use of a building contract is to be avoided

  • Payment in full - if your builder is asking for payment in full or even a large portion of the cost before starting the project, then avoid them!

 

4 - Project Management & Contract Administration

 

4.1) Do I need a contract with my builder?

There is no legal requirement to have a contract. Although you don't need to have one, our suggestion would be always to have one even for a small job. Without this, it's your word against the builder's if any disputes arise, it's difficult to prove your case if you don't have any evidence. We normally use the JCT Standard Building Contracts which are considered the most popular construction contracts in use in the UK. JCT contracts are usually made between an 'employer' and a 'contractor' to facilitate the process of delivering a building project.

This contract will provide a fixed date for completion and envisages upfront agreements of damages as an estimate of the employer's losses if the builder does not complete the works by that agreed date. They set out all of the relevant terms and conditions, including the obligations of the parties, the costs involved, and the specifications of the project.

4.2) I have a manhole that is in the way of my extension, how do I deal with that?

An application to Thames Water will need to be applied for. We can do that on your behalf. Generally, the manhole needs to be moved out of the area proposed to build and away from the new foundations.

4.3) Do I need a party wall surveyor?

Party wall surveyors are generally required if the proposed work involves structural elements that will touch or sit on the party walls. Also, in an extension, if there are any buildings within 3 metres of the proposed foundations then it is possible that a surveyor will be required. Notices will need to be sent to our neighbours to see if they consent (or not) to the work. The process starts here depending on the neighbour's decision.

If the neighbours do consent but do not request for a party wall award to be drawn up, then we will say at a minimum to get a schedule of conditions carried out at both properties so if anything does happen during the works you have records and evidence of the conditions of all properties before the works started.

4.4) Can I project manage my building works?

This can be an attractive option for people looking at building their own homes or renovating. However, if you don't have the time or the confidence to do so, we will be more than happy to assist you during this phase. ​We will manage your project to lead the construction stage effectively. We will ensure your project is built on time and to budget while protecting the integrity of the design.

4.5) Should I pay my builder upfront for building works?

We won't normally suggest you this procedure. The job should be paid for in stages, you paying on the completion of each stage so that you get the work upfront, with the final payment on completion. Also, if we manage financially your project, we will apply retentions (often 5%) to all the amounts certified to the contractor. Half of this retention will be released to the contractor once 'Practical Completion' status is achieved and the other half will be retained until the 'Rectification Period' is concluded.